Burnout can affect workplace productivity and the health and wellbeing of people as individuals. Don’t let this silent assassin impact you or your team. Learn to recognise some common signs of burnout and how to prevent it from happening.
This year especially, it has become more apparent that advancements of technology in the workplace and arrangements like flexible working conditions have their fair share of pros. In situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, employees across all sorts of sectors have been able to transition to remote workplaces and continue their roles as “best as possible”.
But when there is good, there is generally the not-so-favourable too. For a lot of employees, freelancers, and even business owners and managers, being virtually contactable 24/7 can often lead to increased pressure, even outside of a physical workplace. Working harder and faster to ensure these people remain “necessary”. Or, responding to questions, queries or concerns at the click of a finger (or receipt of a message/email as is generally the case), no matter what time of the day or week. In many cases, it is this pressure that can lead to job dissatisfaction and, ultimately, burnout.
But what exactly is a burnout?
Most people have heard the term already. But many people don’t understand the true definition of a burnout or its potential seriousness to individual health and wellbeing.
Burnout is in fact, a state of mental health; often a combination of physical and/or emotional exhaustion from ongoing, unresolved stress. It is not discriminative of age, sex, race or general health status.
A burnout can be triggered by a range of factors, and the most common of these include:
- workload demands
- a lack of control
- not feeling appreciated
- experiencing a toxic working environment
- role requirements that do not gel with personal values
Unfortunately, burnout can negatively impact people both professionally and personally. But the good news is there are several tell-tale signs which can help spotlight when someone is heading for a burnout. These signs are not always the same for everyone. Nonetheless, there are some common indicators and symptoms of a burnout. These can include:
- pessimistic values towards work or personal life
- physical, mental and emotional exhaustion
- an increase in absence from work
- a lack of motivation and detachment from work or personal responsibilities
- low productivity levels
- reduced immune levels
- increased lethargy
- a detachment in personal relationships
So, what can you do to combat a burnout?
If you recognise or feel any of the common symptoms of a burnout, you must take the time to get yourself back on track. And in the workplace, employees have just as much responsibility for their own health and wellbeing as their employers do.
Following are a few pointers that can help to overcome burnout.
#1. Be mindfully aware
One of the golden rules to combating burnout is to be mindful of its existence in the first place. As individuals, it is important to monitor our own stress levels and tune into our body to recognise signs of additional stress. Regular headaches, tightness in the back or shoulders, reduced energy levels, and even deprived sleep patterns can all be signs of stress. How are you coping?
#2. Recognise the signs and take action
Don’t get me wrong here. There are some jobs where stress cannot be avoided, and this can often help to remain focused and meet new challenges or demands. But too much is not healthy. Constantly pulling in long hours and overtime, short deadlines, unrealistic expectations, or a lack of community. When stress exceeds your ability to realistically cope and becomes damaging, it is time to recognise that you are under strain and take steps to re-address the situation.
To combat a burnout, you must take time for yourself. Take a break and unwind from the challenges that you are facing.
In highly-stressful jobs and situations, there are many people who recommend the art of meditation. But if you are not a fan of the technique, take part in an activity that can help find your individual place of “Zen”. Whether that be a few hours beside the pool sunk into a favourite paperback. Perhaps some retail therapy (don’t forget to budget first!), or a massage might help. Even a couple of days at home to relax with the family and friends, or some pondering about in the garden can work wonders. Whatever helps make you relaxed or feel re-energised, is what you need to do when signs of tiredness or burnout creep in. Talk to your employer about a few days leave to recoup if you find a weekend is just not long enough.
#4. Keep positive
If you are feeling negative about work or life, try to change the way you look at things. Try focusing on the roles and tasks that you really enjoy or value the most. Start looking at the glass half full rather than half empty and build on healthy relationships with the people around you.
Happiness is contagious and negativity will never get you anywhere.
#5. Get active
We all know the benefits of exercise far outweigh the output. This is also the case when it comes to fighting off stress. Exercise is a great release and can help combat negatively and blow off steam!
Try to introduce some regular exercise into your weekly routine. At least 30 minutes, three times a week is a good starting point.
* Tip: for anyone stuck indoors or with limited resources, you might like to try some virtual exercise campaigns like Sam Wood’s 28 program. He is also generously running free regular workout sessions at the moment on his 28 by Sam Wood Facebook page.
#6. Get enough sleep
Sleep is often an undervalued asset to optimal health and wellbeing. But a good night’s rest is vital for combating burnout too.
Set a regular bedtime routine. Switch off your phone or tablet at least a couple of hours before bedtime to allow your brain the best chance to unwind. The experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Try to reach that goal at least a few days per week.
* Tip: for more insight into a healthy sleep routine, see this article from The Sleep Foundation
As employees, we have a responsibility to take action for our own health and wellbeing. As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure that employees are given a fair chance to get the help that they need.
Burnout in a workplace can lead to poor employee retention, absenteeism, and a reduced customer service levels. And in times of crisis, this is definitely something that no employer can afford.
As individuals, we all must learn to be mindful and recognise the signs of burnout before it takes control. Remember to look out for your colleagues and mates. This week on Thursday 10th September is RUOK Day – so ask that question if you see the signs.